If There Are Not Snakes, There Are Bears

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by Jan Seides
Sunday 17th May, 2009, 10:48pm

The title is a bit of wisdom learned on a camping trip by a good friend of mine. Another bit was “The quality of the Mexican food is in inverse proportion to your distance from the Mexican border” (the less distance, the more better), but that’s a story for another time.  She had just reached the point in her northbound trip where she could stop worrying about snakes hiding in the brush — and then she realized she was in bear country. Sigh-of-reliefus Interruptus.

The reason it resonated for me when she said it was because I’ve been recording for the last few days. I have a love/hate relationship with recording, even recording at home with no company but my own, as I have been. The love part is because these are new songs, and new songs are always exhilarating.  But it’s a lot like dodging obstacles.

For one thing, if I think anyone is going to actually hear it, it has to be as close to perfect as I can get it — a fool’s errand if ever there was one. A long time ago, a friend of mine brought her tools to my house to teach me how to decorate a cake. As she came in my door, she took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye and said “First of all, forget about perfect.” Good advice, Carol, and I did appreciate it. But just bringing it up was the kiss of death. Perfect is now indelibly imprinted on my brain. You reckoned without my hidden desire to prove you wrong. I understand that if the recording really was perfect, it wouldn’t sound human. I also understand that when I listen to the finished product, all I will hear are the flaws. What I truly don’t understand is why the act of pushing a button will make everything I know about playing my instrument disappear into thin air.

I do finally get past that, though, because nothing at all will happen if I don’t. So, on to the next hurdle. Outside noise. The aquarium, the refrigerator, the air conditioning (This is Texas. It’s May. The temperature is already soaring) OK, so I can’t do anything about those. But I put my imaginary ogre in charge of the phone and the doorbell. I even announce that on Facebook and Twitter.  My ogre is large and mean. The phone doesn’t ring. But he’s apparently lazy. I finish a take, a decent one, push the stop button, and one nanosecond later, the doorbell rings. It’s UPS, with the delivery of coffee that comes once every six months! Couldn’t have waited another day, or been delivered yesterday. This time I was lucky — no doorbell caught on tape. *whew*

Then I decide to listen to a song I recorded about a month ago, that I think might be good for this CD. As I search through the list for it, I am happy because I think this will be one less song I have to do today. And I listen. It’s a decent recording. Just one problem: The song’s not right. I don’t feel that way anymore. Oh no….it has to be re-written, if not scrapped altogether.

And then there’s the one where the recorder suddenly reads “Hard disk error”. Then I have to start over, because I don’t have a clue what that means. Did it get any of it? Is it corrupted? Am I out of memory? Is it broken? Heart pounding, I try again. Sometimes I win.

And so it goes, up one mountain and down the next, over a wall, through the mud, and a few times in small, tight circles. Punch this in, re-do that, start over on the other. Stressing the whole time. I used to think this would wear off after awhile, but it never has. I’m reading a book right now called Songwriters on Songwriting (Paul Zollo, ISBN 978-0-306-81265-1) in which several of the interviewed songwriters talk about the fun and excitement of recording. What planet do they live on? My only comfort is that my friend understands how this really works. If there are not snakes, there are bears.

Category: Music

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July 2009

Thursday 23rd, 5:35am

by Jackie


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